Accessible Arts & Media in York nominated for National Diversity Award

National Diversity Awards Credit: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

Accessible Arts and Media, a charity based in York, has been nominated for a National Diversity Award.

The charity, which has brought inclusion and diversity to the fore for 37 years, will find out if the have won the Community Organisation Award for Multi-Strand at the event in Liverpool.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Accessible Arts and Media has engaged with more than 10,000 people who have learning difficulties and disabilities.

Using music, arts and crafts the charity brings people with learning and communication difficulties together and helps them learn new skills, grow in confidence and express themselves.

They’re all incredibly creative. They love to get involved, but often they’re the unheard voices in our community, so at Accessible Arts and Media our job is to see and take it very seriously in a great, fun sort of way, is about how can we draw those things out, because those hidden voices, they’ve got so much to contribute. Levelling the playing field is a big thing about what we do, but also raising aspirations, not just of these guys, but for about the community around them to realise that they’ve got more potential. They’ve got so much to give.

Rose Kent, Accessible Arts & Media
National Diversity Awards Credit: ITV News

The group introduced singing and signing into the mainstream with the formation of its Hands and Voices choir, which performs at events.

Lewis Wilkinson, 32, attends the sessions and told ITV News "When we’re singing in front of the audience and then they’re joining in and then they clap at the end for us. I feel happy about it to get like words out. I feel a lot happy. A lot happy. I’ve made a lot of friends."

Daniel Hayes, who also attends, said playing the musical instruments helps him learn and have fun at the same time. He said "I play the drums. Got the ukulele, so that’s plugged in ready to go. It’s more relaxing, it’s great, it’s good fun, it’s more fun to go really."

National Diversity Awards Credit: ITV News

With the help of volunteers and freelance musicians, a broad range of people enjoy therapeutic music and creative learning sessions.

One volunteer, who also helps with admin, is Brenda Hodgson. She told ITV News "I really love it. I really love helping people. Everybody enjoys singing and signing and it’s good for your overall health and also all your endorphins, you know, feel good factor."

There’s quite a lot of members who are non-verbal and music gives them a medium to communicate and the more they engage with that and I’ve seen it time and time again, the more that they are able to communicate themselves through music. Rhythms are brilliant I think for that. You can get a lot of call and response, mirroring and the more that you engage with that and the more that they realise that you’re responding to what they are doing, they then begin to open up from what I’ve seen and it’s brilliant to see.

Wayne Dawson, Freelance Musician

The nominees for the Community Organisation Award for Multi-strand category are:

  • Changing Lives in Harlow CIC

  • Arrive Alive Response

  • L6 Community Association

  • Cedarcube

  • Jigsaw Family Support

  • The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety

  • Accessible Arts & Media

  • Community Rail Lancashire Ltd